The Cleveland Indians were not too thrilled about the two home runs by Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman in the first two games of this year’s American League Division Series, but followers of Jewish baseball players were. 

Bregman, who usually bats second in the potent Astros lineup, hit a home run in last year’s World Series Game 5 and became the first Jewish player to get a walk-off hit in a World Series game. 

Bregman, who hit 31 home runs this year, is not the only Jewish player to take part in this year’s postseason. Each of the four remaining teams has a Jewish player.

Joc Pederson, the center fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, had a great World Series last year, hitting three home runs, including two in Game 6, becoming the first Jewish player to hit two in one game – something hall-of-famer Hank Greenberg never did, even though he hit five in four different Series appearances in 1934, ’35, ’40 and ’45. According to several reports, Pederson has been called upon to blow the shofar at his parents’ temple in Palo Alto, Calif.

Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, despite being involved with performing-enhancing drugs earlier in his career, has the best total résumé, being named National League Rookie of the Year in 2007 and MVP in 2011. Ian Kinsler is the second baseman for the Boston Red Sox, and Max Fried is a relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves, who were eliminated by the Dodgers hours after the Indians early exit from the playoffs.

It is difficult to determine how many Jewish players have played in the majors, but the number is probably near 150. Notable ones to play in the World Series are Greenberg, Al Rosen, Sandy Koufax, Steve Stone (Brush High graduate and Cy Young winner), Kevin Youkilis and Ken Holtzman.

Kicked to the curb?

As this is written, I am wondering whether Cleveland Browns’ place-kicker Greg Joseph would be among the few to kick a game-winning field goal in overtime on a Sunday and be released before the next game. Joseph kicked a 37-yard field goal to beat the Baltimore Ravens, 12-9, after missing an extra point and a 55-yard field goal earlier in the game Oct. 7. 

It is difficult to believe the coaching staff and front office have any confidence in him, as he has “line-drived” a couple of field goals (the 55-yarder probably wasn’t expected). One thing he has done well is kick off very deep, not allowing any kick returns. That’s important, at least until the special teams coverage improves.

Peppers salty about fans 

With a 2-2-1 record, the Browns, led by quarterback Baker Mayfield, have proven they can be competitive with just about anybody, and as unlikely as it might have been a month ago, they have put themselves into playoff potential. 

Last week, Jabrill Peppers, defensive back and kick returner, pulled out the “Michigan card,” saying fans dislike him because he played for the Michigan Wolverines in college. He may not know it, but Mayfield planted an Oklahoma flag into the turf at the Horseshoe in Columbus – and that doesn’t bother fans who like the Browns and Ohio State Buckeyes anymore. 

Someone should tell Peppers it would be a good idea if he started playing nearly as well as fellow defensive back – and former Buckeye – Denzel Ward is playing. That said, Peppers played his best game as a pro against Baltimore last week. 

If the defense would get to rest a little bit, and Mayfield keeps playing with the magic touch, we could be in for some fun.

Follow Les at Facebook.com/Cleveland JewishNews.

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